The architect behind Charlottesville, Virginia’s ban on drone use, John Whitehead, recently spoke at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. to promote his newest book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. Whitehead, who also serves as the president of the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties organization, highlighted the dangers to civil liberties today, such as the potential increase of drone use in the near future.
To protect civil liberties, Whitehead suggested that concerned Americans start on the local and city level, as he did. He wrote the city council in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he lives and works, and suggested an anti-drone law. Under the ordinance he developed, drones cannot be equipped with anti-personnel weapons and compile camera footage to be used in criminal cases. Charlottesville passed this law and now 40 other cities are considering similar measures. Other state governments were encouraged by this, but Congress stayed mostly silent.
Whitehead said that “we’re seeing all kinds of crazy laws being passed,” some of which make it illegal for Girl Scouts to sell cookies in the plaza in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. Whitehead shared a story of how a woman who was handing out cold bottles of water on a hot Phoenix, Arizona afternoon had her water bottles seized and was warned by police that she was violating a regulation that banned distributing water on public property. The problem was resolved when the city received bad publicity and changed the city ordinance.
Similarly, farmers and lemonade stand operators across the country have had unpleasant encounters with Big Brother. Farmers have tried to give their neighbors some of their goat cheese, but were told not to by local police. Lemonade stands are now being regulated by city ordinances. And these examples are not anomalies, Whitehead warned.
“Congress is passing 5,000 new laws a year,” Whitehead said. He said that some believe that any American, on any given day, could be violating up to five different federal laws. “So these are the trends we are seeing and they are dangerous,” Whitehead observed.
“In my opinion, Washington is out of control,” Whitehead stated, and he pulled no punches when describing U.S. President Barack Obama. “For a guy who was supposedly a constitutional lawyer, obviously he either ignores the Constitution or does not understand it.”
Unfortunately, most Americans are in “entertainment mode” and civil liberties are in the back of their minds. “A healthy mistrust of government officials” is a healthy habit for Americans and America’s civil liberties, said Whitehead.
Spencer Irvine is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.
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